Manchester United, the most successful English club in Premier League history, achieved resounding success under Sir Alex Ferguson – the most decorated manager in the game. He made some astute signings who, despite little fame, went on to become instrumental in winning silverware. Nevertheless, the legendary Scotsman took a few chances on players who failed to live up to expectations and were labelled as ‘flops’ following calamitous spells at the club.
1. Massimo Taibi
Brought in for £4.5 million from Venezia to replace the legendary Peter Schmeichel between the sticks. His debut was against bitter rivals Liverpool where despite an early error, he made a number of fine saves en route to United’s 3-2 win. But he failed to grab his chances and was dubbed as ‘The Blind Venetian’ by a renowned outlet following his horror show against Southampton. Taibi made only four appearances in his six-month spell before being loaned out to Reggina in January.
2. Juan Sebastián Verón
A famous name in Argentine football spent the worst spell of his career in England when he completed a £24.3 million switch from Lazio. It was the most expensive transfer in English football back then, but Veron couldn’t adjust to the pace of the Premier League and struggled through injuries during his two-year stint. He scored 7 goals in 51 appearances and was offloaded to Chelsea who spent £15 million to buy his services. His fortunes didn’t change at Stamford Bridge and Inter Milan were happy to take him on loan.
Kleberson was the driving force behind Brazil’s incredible 2002 World Cup triumph and attracted interest from elite clubs throughout Europe. Manchester United, however, wrapped up a £6.5m deal with Atlético Paranaense for the then 24-year-old midfielder but he struggled to adapt to the English game. He recently revealed he only joined the club because former teammate Ronaldinho told him he was joining the club soon. Kleberson was eventually sold to Besiktas for €2.95 million after making only 20 league appearances.
4. Eric Djemba-Djemba
Djemba-Djemba completed a dream move from Ligue 1 outfit Nantes for a fee of £3.5 million and was considered as a potential successor for an ageing Roy Keane. The Cameroon international, thought to be yet another masterstroke of Ferguson, failed miserably in English football and only played 20 league games in 18 months before moving to Aston Villa. The £1.5 million transfer to Villa Park did not work out either and the midfielder never managed to live up to his full potential. Djemba-Djemba is still in the game, playing in the Swiss fifth tier with FC Vallorbe-Ballaigues.
The former football wonderkid completed a £20 million transfer from Porto and went on to win five Premier League titles as well as the Champions League glory before completing a move to Internacional. Anderson, however, made only 105 league appearances and never managed to justify the price tag, despite glimpses of quality. He could have become a household name at Old Trafford if he had a stronger work ethic. Throughout his career, he’s always struggled with his fitness, on his debut for Internacional he needed an oxygen mask after he came off. Now Anderson is playing with Adana Demirspor in the Turkish second division.
6. Owen Hargreaves
The Canadian born midfielder progressed through the academy ranks at Bayern Munich and completed a £17 million switch to Manchester United in 2007. His first season was successful, playing a key role in helping the club win both the Premier League and Champions League. But the following three seasons were injury-riddled and made only 27 league appearances in four seasons. Basically, his body was made of plastic, but he didn’t retire after leaving and somehow convinced Man City to sign him on a short-term deal.
7. Gabriel Obertan
The little-known Bordeaux winger was a surprise £3 million transfer to Old Trafford. The winger made 14 league appearances before leaving for Newcastle United two years later. Ferguson managed to recoup the money but the player failed to impress for the Magpies and joined Bulgarian outfit Levski Sofia last summer after a couple of dreadful spells with Anzhi Makhachkala and Wigan Athletic.
Still scratching my head as to why United squandered £7.4 million on this little-known Portuguese attacker based on six friendly appearances with Vitória de Guimarães. Fergie had never seen him play and stated former assistant, Carlos Queiroz recommended him to the club. Bebe stayed for four seasons but made only 2 league appearances and spent most of his time out on loan to gain experience. Those spells were underwhelming too and the player was eventually sold to Benfica for a fee worth up to €3 million.
9. Ángel Di María
The catastrophe under David Moyes did not stop the Red Devils from attracting household names as they snapped up Angel Di Maria for £59.7 million – another record signing at that time. Prior to joining, he played a key role in Real Madrid’s Champions League triumph but failed to replicate his form under Louis van Gaal. The attacker left for Paris Saint-Germain the following year after netting 3 times in 27 Premier League appearances.
10. Memphis Depay
Another disastrous signing of the post-Fergie era, despite a highly successful stint in the Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven. The winger made significant strides by the age of 21 and secured a £25 million deal, turning down Arsenal and Liverpool. The Dutch international asked for the iconic ‘number 7’ jersey but failed to capture the crowd’s imagination on the field as his miserable one and a half year spell saw him finding the net only twice in 33 league appearances. He was eventually offloaded to Ligue 1 heavyweights Lyon for an initial fee of around £16 million where his form has improved since the quality of opposition is weaker than England.